WIPP Works in Washington: The Complicated Business of Changing Investment Behavior

I don’t know if you watch the Oscars, or like me, go to a party having barely seen any of the movies. I am usually pretty bored with the thank-you speeches from the winners, but this year one acceptance speech got my attention. It was the speech from the winner of

Anne Sullivan

Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

Best Actress, Frances McDormand, for her role in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Referencing women in the audience who “had stories to tell and projects to finance,” she said, “don’t talk to us at the parties tonight, invite us to your office in a couple of days…and we’ll tell you all about them.” She asked the women to stand and told Meryl Streep, “if you do it they’ll all do it.”

The speech caught my attention because women entrepreneurs in all industries including Hollywood share the same vexing problem—access to capital. A damning statistic, women only receive 4% of all commercial loan dollars and 2% of venture capital, shows women entrepreneurs struggle with obtaining adequate capital. Yet, over 36% of businesses are women-owned and are growing at four times the rate of businesses owned by men, so it appears there is no shortage of women seeking operating or investment capital.

Asked why women get so little VC money in Fortune article, Julie Wainwright, founder and CEO of a consignment website The RealReal, thinks it comes down to the lack of female VCs. “When you have different businesses that aren’t proven that may appeal more to a female [customer], a female investor is going to be able to evaluate that” better than a male investor could, she says. “I think in general, most VCs are trying to do their jobs, but there are a lot of unconscious biases.”

A study from Harvard Business Review also points to an additional reason for this deficit—male and female entrepreneurs are asked different questions by VCs, which in turn affects the level of funding they receive. According to the study, when investors asked male entrepreneurs questions they used a promotion orientation, meaning they focused on their hopes and achievements. Alternatively, when questioning women entrepreneurs, they mostly used a prevention orientation, which focused on questions regarding responsibility, security and vigilance. Researchers found that this has a substantial impact on funding outcomes, thus helping to explain the large disparity in VC funding for women entrepreneurs.

Given these barriers, why are so many women starting businesses? It seems to boil down to two reasons: they were either inspired or frustrated. Inspired because they had a good idea, built a better “mousetrap” or decided to create wealth for their families by taking the risk of entrepreneurship. Frustrated because they weren’t getting equal pay for equal work, were tired of a hostile work environment or saw no ability to advance.

A case study by the National Women’s Business Council highlights both of these. The study examined reasons why women become necessity entrepreneurs and of the nine women interviewed, eight cited gender-specific issues, thus making entrepreneurship a necessity. The study also highlights the financial need as the driver to start businesses. “I can relate to many of these women because I’m a prime example of a necessity entrepreneur,” said Kari Warberg Block, NWBC council member and founder and CEO of EarthKind®. “I was fresh out of alternatives with no job options, and I had to do something, anything, to take care of my family. I had an idea to create a safe, natural option for pest control, and 10 years later that has turned into a $20 million-dollar business.”

What are some of the solutions to this vexing problem? Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet but rather a host of solutions necessary to turn this tide. For starters, investors and lenders can start asking the right questions and including women in their review process. Women who sit on the boards of these companies can monitor lending/investing in women-owned companies. And on the policy front, WIPP’s Economic Blueprint suggests a host of policy changes that will help.  They include understanding the data from lending institutions with respect to lending to women, freeing up a regulatory environment that discourages smaller banks from lending to small businesses and developing a track for women to become investors through government backed programs like the Small Business Investment Companies. Lastly, Congress should require a comprehensive review of the Small Business Innovation Research program, which awards only 16% to women.

Even though access to capital for women business owners requires changing cultural biases and policies, all of us can start by educating those around us. If one of us stands up, everyone will stand.

This Women’s History Month, Show the Power of Women Business Owners

Happy International Women’s Day—let’s celebrate by showing our might online! March is Women’s History Month, and throughout the month WIPP will be coordinating a Twitter campaign that highlights those who make the women’s business community an economic powerhouse. Join us in demonstrating how important women business owners are by tweeting about women business owners you find inspiring, either from history or the modern day, and tagging @WIPPWeDecide. We’ll amplify your post with our audience. Keep an eye on Twitter as WIPP members discuss the women they find inspiring. There are sure to be some great stories!

Speaking of inspiring women, we want to give you the opportunity to get to know WIPP’s board better. We’re starting with Board Chair Lisa Firestone. Here is a short Q&A with Lisa.

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Lisa Firestone, WIPP Board Chair

Q. How long have you been a member of WIPP?

A. I have been a member of WIPP since 2009.

Q. Why did you join WIPP?

A. In 2005, my company Managed Care Advisors, won its first government contract and it quickly became very clear that contracting with the federal government was incredibly complex—from understanding its culture to navigating its regulations and best practices. After receiving certification through WBENC, I was told WIPP was “the organization to belong to if you were interested in government contracting.” I went to my first WIPP annual meeting and was immediately impressed with the speakers, the caliber of women who attended, and resources that are available. I knew that if I had time to get involved with one organization, WIPP was it!

Q. What about WIPP is most beneficial for your business?

A. When I first joined, I needed to get educated in federal contracting. WIPP provided me with educational resources, access to technical experts and introductions to other women business owners who were experienced contractors and willing to mentor, educate and guide me. In addition to becoming well-versed in government contracting, I had the opportunity to work with WIPP members with expertise in cyber security, contracting law and government relations. They all played significant roles in the continued growth and maturity of my company. Personally, WIPP has also given me the opportunity to do things that I would have never dreamed possible—testifying on Capitol Hill, meeting legislators, and mentoring other entrepreneurs.

WIPP has not only supported the growth of my company, it has supported my growth and confidence as a leader. This organization is special—its culture is supportive, positive and uplifting and one of advocating on behalf of ALL women entrepreneurs. At WIPP, you are among people who you truly enjoy and trust and you are in an environment where you will celebrate each other’s success.

Yvonne Ballard: Construction Mode

I graduated from Turner Construction’s 12-week Construction Management Course on November 15, 2017. It was a great accomplishment for my brand!

The program refreshed important aspects of the industry that I learned in college about 12 years ago, and it’s good to know that some of the same rules apply. Plus, I was able to learn a lot about new and improved safety measures, validating contracts, teamwork and project management. And I loved the feeling of good intent from others!

As a minority, I’ve seen a lot of programs that say they offer support, but in truth there are a lot of risks: bad customer service, unlimited loopholes, and being degraded for asking for help.

Turner, on the other hand, has a genuine team that is motivated by good will, and a support system to help my brand sustainability. The class had a culture of diversity and offered business opportunities to partner for more work. This was an awesome experience especially since my goal is to align my brand and expertise with like-minded developers so I can style the interior spaces of new structures.

During the months leading up to graduation, I attended another great event called ChallengeHER. I wasn’t sure how I would apply it to my business, but the name grabbed my attention. The September 2017 ChallengeHER event was held at the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), a familiar place that supported me years ago. The program offered a plethora of education for women-owned small businesses, procurement leads and a directory of face-to-face supporters. The link directly related to my certifications and gave me the confidence to approach new business ventures.

Looking back, it reminded me of when I began activating my gift into a career mindset in 2004. Initially, the odds were against me. At the time I was a young mother of three children with very little income. I enrolled in the Section 8 program at CMHA; this gave me the opportunity to attend college. I also qualified for daycare vouchers to send my children to school. It was the beginning of a great start for my independence, education and a better outcome for our future success.

We rented a little purple house at the time. The owner initially didn’t want to accept the Section 8 voucher, but I shared the benefits and promised to be a great tenant. We closed the deal. I practiced my design projects in that house. I later purchased a bigger home from the same owner with the assistance of the Section 8 homeownership program.

I was the first of my immediate family to own a home and complete college. I majored in interior design. My mindset was, and still is, “If I get an opportunity for support subsidies, I don’t use them to get comfortable but use them to further my education or improve my family situation—use them to improve our livelihood.” Even having faced discrimination, I maintain by focusing on the outcome.

Having a mindset to acknowledge support as an opportunity to propel forward and not as a crutch to get comfortable has afforded me nothing but success as a wife, mother, homeowner, college graduate, and entrepreneur. My objective is to be an inspiration to my family and community. That, in turn, enhances my drive.

Yvonne Ballard

President/Owner of NOVE home&body decor LLC

novedecor.com/about

2017: A Banner Year for WIPP & Women Business Owners

WIPP was busy this year educating policymakers, women business owners, the media and the public about what women business owners need to succeed. From bringing women entrepreneurs directly to some of the most powerful lawmakers in the country, to meeting women entrepreneurs where they live and do business to educate them on how to bolster their businesses, WIPP was at the forefront of issues impacting women in business in 2017.

A sampling of our (many) accomplishments are highlighted below:

Educating Thousands of Women Business Owners Nationwide

  • WIPP held 12 ChallengeHER events in cities across the country, training more than 2,100 women on the best practices for success in federal contracting; including 5 match making events with federal agencies and primes.  WIPP has educated more than 10,000 attendees through its classes that range from those who are new to the process to those highly experienced. Learn more about ChallengeHER, and read about some of the success stories that have come out of the program.
  • WIPP produced 30 Give Me 5 training webinars increasing the free, on-line curriculum to approximately 120 downloadable recordings.  Reaching over 3,000 people this year, these training webinars were taught by industry specialist and federal contracting experts.
  • More than 200 women business owners joined WIPP and Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers for a discussion on venture funding and women owned small business. The discussion explored how to encourage venture capital investment in women, the process of lending for SBICs, and how women business owners can approach venture capitalists.

Impacting Policy at the Highest Levels

  • The president signed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law, which includes a provision directing the Small Business Administration to study small business participation on Multiple Award Contracts. The SBA study is in response to a WIPP report revealing that women small business owners are being shut out of large government contracts. Learn more about WIPP’s study.
  • WIPP surveyed 515 WIPP-affiliated women business owners nationwide on how they use the tax code and worked with American University’s Kogod Tax Policy Center to use the survey data to research how the tax code impacts women business owners. The survey data – together with Kogod’s review of existing tax research on the topic – suggests that many women-owned companies are unable to fully access more than $255 billion worth of tax incentives Congress has designed to help small businesses. The study was picked up exclusively by the Associated Press and was featured in hundreds of papers across the country. Learn more about the report in an op-ed WIPP President Jane Campbell authored in Entrepreneur magazine.
  • WIPP brought women business owners to Washington to testify at tax hearings and help inform the framework for the House Small Business agenda.
  • WIPP’s Economic Blueprint, which outlines a range of economic policy recommendations lawmakers can follow to help women entrepreneurs thrive, was featured in Forbes. Read WIPP President Jane Campbell’s op-ed outlining WIPP’s Economic Blueprint in The Hill.
  • WIPP secured powerful politicians to speak at WIPP’s annual conference so they could hear directly from women business owners on what they want out of Washington. Lawmakers included House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), House and Senate small business committee tax experts and Senate Small Business Committee leadership.
  • WIPP’s advocacy efforts throughout the tax reform debate—which included submitting comments to the Senate Finance Committee urging parity for pass through entities and repeal of the estate and AMT taxes—were instrumental in securing a pass-through carve out, along with the agreement to double the estate tax exemption from the current $5.6 million per individual to $11.2 million ($22 million for couples). WIPP members authored op-eds, letters to the editor and did interviews with reporters on the issue to ensure the women-owned business perspective was breaking through.
  • WIPP’s advocacy team worked to maintain funding for programs important to WIPP, such as the Women’s Business Centers, microloan lending programs and more.
  • WIPP submitted testimony to Congress and statements to the media urging stability of the small business health insurance marketplaces and that Congress keep in place a pooling mechanism for small businesses to buy health insurance.
  • WIPP encouraged the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to support the implementation of Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act requiring financial institutions to gather and report data on small business lending, including applications made by women and minority owners. Read our press statement and our comments to the CFPB.
  • WIPP supported the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act.
  • WIPP was mentioned in more than 60 news articles in 2017, ensuring the women business owner perspective was heard throughout national debates around tax reform, the federal budget, entrepreneurship and more. We had articles in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Financial Times, The Hill newspaper, The Atlantic, the Business Journals, Reuters, the Associated Press, Morning Consult, Bloomberg, the Chicago Tribune, NBC and many more.

Supporting Small Businesses on Small Business Saturday

  • 2017 saw record support from business organizations through the Small Business Saturday Coalition, the national grassroots initiative that WIPP leads to promote Small Business Saturday, with more than 575 organizations nationwide supporting small businesses on Small Business Saturday—an 18% increase over previous years.
  • Organizations WIPP engaged to support Small Business Saturday included the National Retail Federation, Association of Women’s Business Centers, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., and SCORE, as did local organizations such as the Chicago Public Library, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Iowa and many, many others.
  • WIPP’s leadership around the Small Business Saturday Coalition was instrumental in promoting 7,200 events and activities celebrating Small Business Saturday nationwide, engaging more than 2.2 million small businesses.
  • The Coalition secured 653 mayoral proclamations in support of Small Business Saturday nationwide and ensure numerous public service announcements were issued promoting the day.
  • WIPP secured passage of a Senate Resolution designating Small Business Saturday and introduction of House Resolution and engaged 240 Members of Congress in Small Business Saturday activities.

WIPP In the News: December 2017

WIPP officials, members and activities drew media attention on issues ranging from tax reform to Small Business Saturday. Check out the 10 media hits featuring WIPP over the last month.

The Hill: Tax Bill Isn’t Perfect But a step in the Right Direction

Forbes: Female Business Owner Feeling Set-Aside? Consider This Option

Epoch Times: Republicans Forge Ahead with Tax Reform

Fosters Daily Democrat: Small Business Saturday posts impressive numbers

Niagara Frontier: Reports: Estimated 43% of American adults shopped or dined small on Small Business Saturday

Survey: Small Business Saturday Inspires Consumers to Shop Local

The Journal News: Port Chester to make Nov. 25 Small Business Day

Market Business Insider: Nine-in-Ten U.S. Consumers Say Small Business Saturday Has Had a Positive Impact on Their Community

The Eagle: Tax reform would boost women-owned businesses

Vision Times Media: Helping women entrepreneurs get federal contracts

WIPP July Partner of the Month: Pam Mazza

Pam Mazza, managing partner of PilieroMazza PLLC in Washington, D.C., serves on WIPP’s board of directors and has been a strong supporter of the organization for years through her leadership and generous contributions of time and fiscal support. Pam is one of WIPP’s inaugural “Trailblazers,” a group of women who contributed $10,000 to support our education and advocacy work in Washington, D.C. on behalf of women business owners

It’s thanks to people like Pam that WIPP thrives. Thank you, Pam!

 

Q Tell us a little about your company and its mission.

A PilieroMazza is a full-service, woman- owned law firm in Washington D.C. working primarily with government contractors nationwide. Our principle practice areas include labor and employment law, general corporate counselling, litigation and all aspects of government contracting including a strong understanding of small business and socio-economic programs. We are committed to keeping our clients abreast of pending legislation, regulations or case law that might impact the operations of their businesses, and to working with clients to apprise lawmakers and regulators of the potential impact of any proposed changes. Our goal is to help our clients nurture and grow their businesses and to build long-lasting, personal relationships.  We do our best not only to identify issues and obstacles but to develop practical, cost-effective approaches to overcoming them. We pride ourselves in being accessible, affordable and efficient in assisting with our clients’ needs.

Q Have you always been an entrepreneur? If not, what inspired you to take the leap? 

A I grew up in this firm. I was a law clerk, an associate, then a junior partner. Shortly after I became a junior partner, the managing partner and rainmaker of the firm, Dan Piliero, passed away suddenly at the age of 48 and I had a decision to make about the future of the firm. Lawyers are supposed to have their ducks in a row, but since I had just become a junior partner, we didn’t have an agreement covering this situation. It was a stressful time but after weighing the options and working with his estate, I was able to buy the firm.  That was in 1991. The short answer is I was young at the time and hadn’t thought that far ahead about what I would ultimately do. But I quickly became an entrepreneur and I’ve been sitting in this chair ever since!

Q What challenges did you encounter that you had to overcome as a business woman and what have you learned from them?

A  I think that as the years go by, the challenges are fewer and fewer because of the reputation we’ve developed. But back when I took over the practice, I did have a very big concern: the controlling person at a lot of the companies we represented was a male and I didn’t know how they were going to react to me taking over. Would they stay or leave? I was fortunate because though a few moved on, many stayed.

I feel like I have probably had a better experience than many women I know. I see the challenges my woman-owned business clients face. Depending on the industry, it can be very hard for women in government contracting to break in. Many industries and agencies still function under the good-old-boy system and it’s hard for a woman entrepreneur to get her foot in the door. I see women struggling for recognition of their talents; struggling to have people look past their gender and consider their technical capabilities.

I think there also might be challenges when you look at the differences between males and females in leadership roles. A tough male boss is viewed as a solid taskmaster, but if you have that same personality as a female you’re viewed differently. We’ve got to continue to figure out how to co-exist.

I think my main advice is probably to keep pushing through, get your job done, don’t get wrapped up in the prejudices and figure out how to work around them.

Q Do you have a success story that you are particularly proud of? Tell us about it.

A I’m really proud of the law firm we’ve built and I think the firm is my biggest success. We employ 42 people, including 24 lawyers. We had eight when I took over. We have high-quality attorneys who are committed to what we do and the clients we serve. We try to make certain that every client has a good experience. We make certain they understand our different practice areas so they can find the person who can provide them with the knowledge and help they need. I learned many years ago that the clients who stay are the ones who know more than one person at our firm. So, I try to make sure every client has good relationships with and access to more than one lawyer.  It’s unusual for a small firm like ours to maintain such a diverse practice and to be competitive with large and small law firms and I am very proud of what we’ve built, the principles we maintain and our reputation within the government contracting community.

Q What tips would you share with other women pursuing entrepreneurship?

A It’s important to follow your dream but also to understand your market. Before you jump in, make sure you know what your potential is, what your industry is, who your customers are, and make absolutely certain that you vet your business partners. Whether they are co-owners, teaming partners or key employees, make sure you have the same ethics, the same ideas, and that you agree on expectations. That means putting it in writing. Those kinds of business relationships can go sour quickly, and the best thing to do is think things through at the beginning so there’s a roadmap if they do.

Q What obstacles do you think are the hardest for women business owners to scale? 

A Scaling a business requires financial resources, a dedicated staff and a wise business plan.  Women entrepreneurs still have trouble with access to credit and capital, which can hinder attracting and retaining the key employees necessary to take a business to the next level.  I do believe the situation has improved over the past decades but I still see clients who struggle with these challenges.  I also suspect that many women still struggle with juggling their roles as mothers—which is critically important—with their roles as entrepreneurs, which is also a critical role. Both jobs require much effort and I do not believe that many women can accomplish both to their satisfaction, especially when trying to scale a business. I don’t care what anyone says, no one can be super woman all the time and each of us needs to strike the most comfortable balance for ourselves.

Q Tell us about your experience as a WIPP member. What resources and value has WIPP provided that has been helpful to you and your company?

A I love being on the WIPP board. I have met so many interesting women and am developing better, deeper relationships with them every day. We share tips, send referrals, and are all working together to build our advocacy effort to make it a better place for women entrepreneurs. It’s a very meaningful experience for me.

As far as resources, all the networking is fantastic. Also, WIPP’s resources like the Give Me 5 program, the annual conferences, networking opportunities and the legislative initiatives have been very valuable to many of our clients.

Senate Small Business Committee Highlights Tax Burdens on Small Businesses

Last week, the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee took up one of the most important issues for Congress this year—tax reform. The committee held a hearing on tax reform to address the code’s current barriers to small business growth. Witnesses testifying before the Committee included Mark Mazur, director of Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, Annette Nellen, chair of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), and Brian Reardon, president of S Corporation Association.

Both the majority and minority voiced the importance of the small business voice when considering tax reform. Chair James Risch (R-ID) began the hearing by pointing to a grim fact: tax compliance costs are 67% higher for small businesses. Due to these extraordinary costs, roughly 89% of small business owners have to rely on outside assistance to comply with the tax code. As we all know, time is money. Ranking Member Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) commented on the length and complexity of the tax code, pointing out that small businesses spend 2.5 billion hours complying with IRS rules. These hours are valuable time wasted on compliance that could be used for growing a business.

Too Much Time and Too Much Money

Questions from members of the committee centered around the increased burdens and costs of tax compliance that small businesses experience. Annettee Nellen from AICPA highlighted in her testimony that tax relief should apply to all businesses, not just C-corps. This is at the core of WIPP’s policy recommendations: to reform the tax code to make deductions and credits equitable, no matter the structure of the company. Mark Mazur, director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, added that the current tax system is “woefully” out of date as it applies to business income. In changing the tax code, Congress will have to look at how different the economy is today from the last time the code was revised, he advised. As pointed out in WIPP’s 2017 Economic Blueprint, pass through entities are subject to a top individual tax rate of 43.4%, and with state and local tax rates ranging up to 13.3%, this significantly hampers business growth.

Institutional Barriers for Women

Ranking Member Shaheen referenced research conducted by WIPP and American University’s Kogod Tax Policy Center. “The last time the tax code was updated, there were only four million women-owned small businesses,” said Shaheen. “Today, there are 11.3 million, making up 38% of firms in this country.” She noted that Congress does not have enough information on women-owned businesses citing the Kogod study, Billion Dollar Blind Spot, asking the panel how Congress and the administration can improve the tax code for women business owners. Mazur agreed, noting that additional resources should be allocated by the IRS to determine barriers for women-owned businesses.

There is certainly agreement from both sides of the aisle that it is time for a change when it comes to tax reform and that the concerns of small businesses should be taken into consideration. This was the first of many conversations that will take place on this critical issue.

To read the written testimony from the hearing, click here.

To read the WIPP and Kogod tax study, click here.

To read WIPP’s 2017 Economic blueprint, click here.

SBA Administrator McMahon makes first appearance before a Congressional committee

By Jennifer White, WIPP Government Relations

Small Business Administration Administrator Linda McMahon talked about her plans for the agency during her first official hearing with the House Small Business Committee on April 5. From the start, Administrator McMahon made clear that her goal is to raise the profile of the agency, in hopes of renewing the spirit of entrepreneurship in America.

“Becoming administrator has been a lot like assuming the position of CEO – trying to evaluate employees and practices and figuring out what’s working and what’s not. My first town hall address was to let folks know that I want this to be the best SBA that’s ever been,” said McMahon.

Throughout the hearing, committee members showed interest in working with the administrator and addressed hard-hitting topics for WIPP – including access to capital, healthcare, tax reform, and regulations. Below are highlights:

  • Access to capital
    • In response to inquiries on improving access to capital for women, McMahon said one of her main focuses would be to ensure that more women apply for loans. McMahon plans on providing counseling to women entrepreneurs creating a business plan. She also said she believes SBA can work to increase the number of women in lending positions when asked about the lack of Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) investments to women-owned firms. SBICs are licensed by the SBA to supply small businesses with both equity and debt financing. Increasing women in lending positions is a point highlighted in the WIPP Economic Blueprint.
  • Healthcare
    • The administrator supports the creation of association plans across state lines offered to small businesses, which WIPP supports. McMahon, referring to HR 1101, which recently passed the House, believes this change to the healthcare market would reduce premiums for small business owners.
  • Tax reform
    • Administrator McMahon wants small businesses to receive similar tax treatment as large businesses, another position WIPP outlines in its Economic Blueprint.
  • Regulations
    • The administrator supports reforming regulations to reduce the burden and costs placed on small businesses. She believes the first step is to look at what regulations are really necessary and go from there. WIPP cites the need for reliable policies and regulations in the Economic Blueprint, as well.

Only two months into her position, the administrator is in the early stages of making the progress she wants to. But, between her enthusiasm for the positions outlined here and the committee’s readiness to work with the administration, it is certain there will be lots to watch for in the coming year.

To watch the full hearing and read Administrator McMahon’s written testimony, click here.

March Madness: A Policy Version—The Elite Eight

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

For many years, my son Matt and I watched March Madness together (that was until he moved to Los Angeles). Not only are many of the games squeakers, I love the upsets and Cinderella teams that emerge during the tournament. Half of the fun is filling out the brackets and guessing which teams will move forward.

So, in honor of March madness, we bring you March policy madness. We have created a policy bracket of the issues we expect will make it past the first round of Congressional action. Just for fun.

WIPP Works Bracket March 2017.png 

Here’s an explanation of the Policy Brackets:

Upper Left: Healthcare vs. Border Wall

President Trump’s Executive Actions have identified both repeal of Obamacare and the potential construction of a border wall. Congressional attention is focused on repealing and or replacing the Affordable Care Act.

Healthcare wins this round.

Upper Left: Regulatory Reform vs. FY2018 Appropriations

Congress is hungry to take back policy-making power from the Executive Branch and has found a sweet spot—rolling back regulations—a move President Trump agrees with. He has already signed legislation repealing a Department of Interior rule and is expected to sign more repeals in the coming months.

On the other hand, appropriations is a long and cumbersome process. To get started, on Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations, President Trump needs to share a budget outline with Congress expected next month, and both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will need to pass all 11 appropriations bills by the end of September. This is a process that has not occurred in over 20 years.

Regulatory reform wins this round.

Lower Left: Trade vs. Supreme Court Nominee

President Trump has indicated that reforming trade policy is a high priority.  But revamping global trade deals into bilateral negotiations will prove to be complicated. The Supreme Court vacancy, on the other hand, has been top of mind. Some Senate Democrats have privately conceded that they expect Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed, taking the place of Antonin Scalia.

The bracket goes to Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Lower Left: Debt Ceiling v. Government Shutdown

Toward the end of the summer, the Treasury Department will have exhausted all “extraordinary measures” to continue paying the government’s bills. Once again, Congress will need to raise the debt ceiling. This close-to-annual exercise used to be non-controversial. But not anymore. This is an opportunity for Congress to discuss fiscal policy.

Another opportunity to discuss fiscal policy is the expiration of the Continuing Resolution on April 28th. In the past, government shutdowns have been threatened/executed, putting continued funding of the government at risk. Given that both Houses of Congress and the president are from the same party, it doesn’t seem likely that shutting down the government is an option. That being said, crazier things have happened in Washington.

Due to timing, debt ceiling wins by a single foul shot.

Upper Right: Taxes vs. Immigration

Tax reform, a priority of both the president and the Congress, is long overdue. In fact, comprehensive tax reform has not been successful since 1986. But don’t look for action overnight. Congressional Republicans are suggesting it will be undertaken sometime this fall.

On the other hand, immigration is even more contentious and bipartisan reform plans were last successful in 1996 under President Clinton. Since then, although there have been many efforts, reform has been elusive.

Tax wins this round.

Upper Right: Defense Spending vs. Infrastructure

Appropriators are currently preparing a special supplemental funding bill for the Defense Department and President Trump announced he would like to add $54 billion to the defense budget. The infrastructure bill hasn’t gained as much traction as the rhetoric about its importance.

Defense spending wins this round.

Lower right: FY17 Omnibus Appropriations vs. NDAA

The National Defense Authorization Act has a 55-year history of being signed into law each year. It is considered in Congress a “must pass” bill. Omnibus appropriations that combine multiple appropriations into a single bill have a spotty record at best. While Omnibus appropriations passed in Fiscal Year 2016, it is still unclear how the rest of FY17 will be funded. Because no one is quite sure, we declare NDAA the winner.

NDAA wins this round.

Lower right: Spending Cuts vs. Elimination of a Federal Agency

President Trump made a campaign promise to significantly decrease agency spending and is expected to propose major cuts in the FY2018 budget. Although eliminating agencies is possible, it is easier to starve an agency than eliminate it altogether.

Spending cuts win this round.

The Elite Eight issues that we predict will prevail to the next round in Washington are:

  • Regulatory Reform
  • Healthcare
  • Supreme Court Appointment
  • Debt Ceiling
  • Tax
  • Defense spending
  • NDAA
  • Spending Cuts

In Washington policy circles, representing women-owned businesses is often like rooting for the underdog. Women across the country who have joined our voice often end up winning the policy fight even though they are dismissed in the “first round.” But collectively, we can end up being the winners who bring home the victory. Not just for us, but for those who have come before us and those that are coming behind us.

Which issues do you think will score over the coming month? Tweet at us @WIPPWeDecide #DCelite8 with your predictions for the Final Policy Four.

Pamela O’Rourke, WIPP’s National Partner of the Month – March 2017

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Pamela O’Rourke, president and CEO of ICON information Consultants, serves on WIPP’s board of directors and has been a strong supporter of the organization through her leadership and generous contributions of time and fiscal support. Indeed, Pamela became WIPP’s very first donor to earn the “Trailblazer” title in February by contributing $10,000 to support our education work and advocacy on behalf of women business owners in Washington, D.C.

It’s thanks to people like Pamela that WIPP thrives. Thank you, Pamela!

Q Tell us a little about ICON and its mission.

A ICON Information Consultants, LP, is a Houston-based, woman-owned (WBENC Certified) staffing and payrolling firm. ICON has provided recruitment and payrolling solutions for 19 years and has over 3,500 contractors on staff daily within the US and Canada. Our primary services include Contract, Contract-to-Hire, and Direct Hire Staffing services, Payrolling services, Independent Contractor Compliance and Management services, and Specialized IT Project Management services. We target clients in the Fortune 100 and 500 arena. Some of our clients include Bank of America, John Hancock, Exelon, Deutsche Bank, NRG Reliant Energy, Shell, Halliburton, HP, Waste Management, Schlumberger, Lyondell/Basell, among many others throughout the nation. Simply put, ICON’s mission is to become the best human capital solutions firm in the US.

Q Have you always been an entrepreneur? If not, what inspired you to take the leap?

A Even before ICON’s inception, I maintained a firm belief that clients deserve more. Make the client happy while always doing the right thing, such as staying late, providing outstanding service internally and out, and doing the best job the first time. I realized while working for other firms that the level of service I wanted to provide was far superior to that which was requested of me. At that time, I saw a window of opportunity to channel my energy and work ethic towards a new business venture. As banks accredit no value to best intentions and denied my loan request since “people are not tangible assets,” I created a business plan and solicited two groups of friends to invest in the start-up. Between my own investment and the money I raised, in 1998, I opened ICON Information Consultants LP with $250,000 in capital. I then gave myself six months to make it work.

Q Have you encountered any challenges you had to overcome as a business woman and if so, what have you learned from them?

A ICON Information Consultants began its journey as a human capital procurement firm in the area of Information Technology. IT has always been a male-dominated field, and my approach and tenacity have broken through a few glass ceilings to ensure ICON remains at the top of our clients’ lists (recently, Bank of America noted ICON Information Consultants as their “favorite supplier”). I learned one of my biggest lessons when I first started to hire people. As an entrepreneur, I realized early on that in order to be at the top of my industry, I must build a team that shares my hunger to continuously learn and improve. As a team, we need to be ready, because competitors are poised to seize any opportunities left open. That’s why I survey the competition to ensure that ICON’s competitive advantage is consistently one step ahead of the curve (if not two).

Q Do you have a success story that you are particularly proud of? Tell us about it!

A The first few years of ICON Information Consultant’s existence forms the basis of my success story. Between my own investment and the money that I raised, in 1998, we opened the business with $250,000 in capital. I gave myself six months to make it work. Choosing to work only with Fortune 100 and 500 corporations because of their significant investment in state-of-the-art technology, I managed to cross over into the midmarket range within months. I thought I was going to do $70,000 my first year, but I did $2.5 million. The next year was $7.7 million. The third year was $11.7 million, then $14 million and $16 million. In 2016, revenues exceeded $270 million. That’s how glass ceilings are shattered.

Q Do you have any tips you would like to share with other women pursuing entrepreneurship?

A Get out of your comfort zone and make contacts. Once you have a prospective client’s undivided attention, know what you need to do to get on their radar, be direct with what you do and make sure they know why you’re great. Always remember: be yourself, relax, and bring lots of business cards.